Feeling good about myself…or not

When I started teaching group exercise classes at the Y six years ago, I didn’t think it would matter to me whether my classes were big or small.  This was primarily to be a chance to connect with the community for the gospel and to supplement our income during some demanding years.  I wasn’t some teenager looking to prove myself.  I had finished school, raised a family, and served in a variety of ministries.  I thought I felt secure in my identity in Christ.

How wrong I was.  “How was work today?”  An innocent question by my husband would bring a catalog of highs and lows by me, recounting my classes and the attendance or lack thereof.  I remember feeling embarrassed when a friend showed up to try out a class and there were only 2 other people there.  Once there was no one and I just went home.  At least I got paid.  Now the tables have turned and my mat class at the Y is very popular.  Woohoo…I can hold my head high.

It’s obvious that my joy is tied to my circumstances.  Or it is tied to what matters to me in my circumstances.  I’m not a big shopper, so I don’t “feel bad about myself” if I wear the same outfit day after day or don’t get a chance to check out the sales.  But I do like to perform, especially in front of an appreciative audience.  With the applause comes “feeling good about myself.”  You might say it is my righteousness.  It merits approval.  And I tend to rejoice in it.

Philippians 3:1-11 is all about rejoicing…in true righteousness.  Paul draws a contrast, between his past record and Christ’s.  His past record is impressive.  As far as a Jew goes, he is qualified to rise to the top of the heap.  He has good reason to boast on a human level.  Better than his peers, he must have felt good about himself, and confident in his approval by God.

But now he had come to “glory in Christ Jesus.”  Coming to know Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection had turned his world upside down.  Jesus wasn’t just a jewel to add to the crown he already had, he was the crown itself.  By contrast Paul saw that his past record was, literally, “crap”!  Not something to treasure as a keepsake, but something to flush and forget.  There was no comparison.  The record of Jesus isn’t  just good, it is PERFECT.  It merits God’s approval.  And it is given, free of charge, as a gift to anyone who believes.

Here’s how John Owen puts it in a run on sentence with no commas, “Christ lived and died in order to work out a perfect righteousness for his people.  He then tells them what he has done and finally he actually gives this righteousness to them and regards them as if they had worked out this righteousness for themselves, so that by this righteousness they will be perfectly accepted with the Father.” (my emphasis).  It’s a no-brainer to flush my accomplishments, moral or worldly, to receive this gift!

So my sisters, rejoice in the Lord!  Trash your qualifications, whether being a good mother or a great cook or an asset to your company or a savvy dresser, and receive the qualifications of Another that you could never have earned.  It’s yours.  Rejoice in Him!

2 comments on “Feeling good about myself…or not

  1. Charissa McElroy says:

    Ummmm, WOW. I’m going to memorize that Owen quote. I kept whispering, “no way, no way” as I was reading it. It is so very, very against my nature to comprehend that my qualifications and accomplishments mean nothing. Only Christ’s qualifications. It will probably take my whole time on this earth to truly fathom that. But I have a question — isn’t it true that the more obedient we are (i.e., qualifications) the more willing God is to grant out prayers?

  2. rondi says:

    Good to hear from you Charissa!

    Yeah, it’s a great quote. I understand your dilemma, too.

    In fact I feel the same way. I am always trying to fill the empty spot in my soul with things I do. The clue that I am on the wrong track is when I “work as if my life depended on it.” This shows me that my efforts have become more than just ordinary work, they have morphed into an attempt at self-justification, self-salvation. Even as a believer I find myself falling into this kind of “works righteousness” again and again.

    But when God shows me I am trying to save myself (from shame, failure, inadequacy, feeling defective, etc.), I can repent at that moment and turn to my Savior again. Repentance is instantaneous. I turn around and there he is, holding out his life and death for me. Taking this gift of righteousness from his hand again frees me to live and work the right way. My accomplishments shrink to their rightful place. I can even enjoy them in the right way, being glad and satisfied that God has given me the strength to serve him well with what he has given me.

    Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (A dead work is one I do to merit God’s approval, to save myself.) The Great Work of Christ always precedes my good works. My good works always flow from his Great Work.

    As for prayer, we never earn God’s answers by our obedience. Christ’s obedience has satisfied every requirement of the Law. Christ’s death has forever opened the door into our Father’s inner room. Simply look to Christ in faith and cry “Papa!” The door is open! He is so near! The Spirit and the Son stand ready to help you.

    Why don’t you skip ahead and join us in our current book? We are reading the gospel of Luke this month, so we can see Jesus better this Easter season.